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Congress to discuss challenges from BJP

New Delhi: Faced with a direct contest with the BJP in five assembly polls this year and in the 2014 general elections, the Congress is set to discuss ways to counter the main opposition party at its 'Chintan Shivir' brainstorming session Jan 18-20 at Jaipur, party sources said on Tuesday.

Aimed at paving the way for the return of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance for a third consecutive term in 2014, the conclave is expected to draw a roadmap for the party to counter the BJP in the assembly polls and the Lok Sabha elections.

"We need a strategy to counter the main opposition (BJP) in the assembly polls and the general elections," a senior Congress leader who did not wish to be named.

Assembly elections are due this year in Delhi, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. While the Congress rules in Delhi and Rajasthan, the BJP is in power in the other three states.

Four states in the northeast - Meghalaya, Nagaland, Tripura and Mizoram - are also set to vote for new assemblies but there no direct Congress-BJP challenge.

During the conclave, a sub-group on future political challenges is expected to deliberate on Jan 18-19 on the possible strategy and this will then be discussed at the All India Congress Committee (AICC) session on Jan 20, sources said.

The recent win in the Himachal Pradesh assembly polls proved to be a leveler for the Congress.

However, the party failed to dent the prospects of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in the Dec 2012 assembly polls. The Congress has been out of power in Gujarat since 1995, and could only increase its tally from 59 in 2007 to 61 in 2012 in the 182-member House.

While returning to power for the fourth time in a row in Delhi could be an uphill task for Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, a divided Congress in Madhya Pradesh may yet find it difficult to stop Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan from performing a hat-trick in 2013.The Congress is not too strong in Chhattisgarh either.

Karnataka, which goes to polls mid-year, is the only hope for the Congress, which should not find it difficult to defeat a divided Bharatiya Janata Party led by Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar.

The exit from the BJP of former Chief Minister and strongman B.S. Yeddyurappa, who now heads his Karnataka Janata Party, is expected to further dent the party's vote share.

"People will appreciate the work done by the central government and the Congress governments in the five big states... we hope to form the governments there," Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi said, adding: "We won in Himachal despite a negative campaign by the BJP".

(Agencies)

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